Financially-struggling South Carolina State University is one step closer to receiving a second major loan to help it pay more than $7 million in overdue bills, although it appears the state’s only public historically-black college may be on its last strike with lawmakers.
The Joint Bond Review Committee on Wednesday voted 6-2 to approve up to $12 million more in loans to be spread over three years. The school will receive $6 million over the next 12 months in quarterly payments, according to the Orangeburg Times & Democrat. That is in addition to a $6 million loan approved by the state Budget & Control Board earlier this year.
College president Thomas Elzey told the committee that the school is getting its budget under control, but needs to pay vendors from previous years. “Paying back the bills that we owe to Sodexho, which our food service vendor, our facilities vendor… others like that who we owe money to and those bills have been mounting over time.” He said the school owes $7 million to its vendors, including $3 million to Sodexho.
The loan had been recommended by a blue ribbon study committee made up of other college presidents who had looked into the school’s finances. And legislators made it clear that they expect SC State to follow the committee’s recommendations. JBRC Chairman Hugh Leatherman made it clear this will be the last time he supports the state stepping in. “If South Carolina State does not follow in strict compliance… the requirements of that budgetary plan, there will be no more support from me. I can assure you of that,” he told Elzey during the meeting.
But some legislators were skeptical about providing a second round of loans until the school gives a full accounting of its problems. Elzey explained the school will still have a year-end deficit of nearly $11 million even with the original loan. He was confident the second round would help the college dig out of its hole.
An audit into the school’s finances is scheduled to be released next year. Gov. Nikki Haley has previously said she would prefer lawmakers wait until the report’s release before providing any additional loans.